If you're starting with Part 5, there's four fantastic chapters you've missed: Catch up here with the chapter index!
Part 5: Fantastic FindEach and every time he stepped through the door Bully considered that there was no place he'd rather be on the island of Manhattan than shopping at Jim Hanley's Universe. The store was busy on Christmas Eve, but not busier than a Wednesday New Comics Day later afternoon, and Bully drew a breath of relief at being on familiar, friendly territory after the hectic streets outside.
He practically ran in excitement up and down the long aisles stocked with colorful comics, following his usual A-Z path tracking the titles alphabetically from The All-New Atom to Zombies vs. Robotsup and down, spinning with excitement, checking the "NEW THIS WEEK!" shelf-talkers to make certain there was nothing he had missed this past New Comics Day, or whether there was something he'd read about on Mister Church or Mister Sterling or Miss Tegan's blogs that he hadn't picked up but desperately wanted to read now.
The toy aisle was a specially exciting attraction this close to Christmas morning, and Bully sighed in longing at DC Direct and Marvel Legends figures of nearly just about character he loved and dearly wanted a plastic representation of. It was long past time, he decided, since he'd dumped all his action figures out on the living room rug, Marvel and DC and Image and whatever, and had Crisis on Bajillion Earths in and around the coffee table-slash-Darkseid and Dr. Doom's Fortress, constructing elaborate and death-defying scenarios of cliffhanging thrills all the way until bedtime, even after Marshall had wandered away with Wonder Woman to have a tea party. Such a massive universal crossover would definitely be improved by that foot tall Sentinel figure, he decided. I wonder if it's too late to send Santa another email?
As he did each week, he checked the t-shirt selection, seeing if maybe this week would be the time that Hanley's finally, finally got in stock an XXXXXXS Spider-Man or Daredevil insignia t-shirt that was just his size. No luck yet, but hope sprung eternal.
He sighed and looked up. Outside the big store windows, the shadow of the Empire State Building was falling across 33rd Street. It was getting later. Time, he regarded sadly, to brave the streets back to Macy's. Unless...
Everybody likes comic books. Bully mused, sucking on his hoof in deep thought. Why don't I get everyone comic books for Christmas?
It was quite the best idea he'd had in a long time, and it made a logical sense to focus his Christmas presents into one-stop shopping. That was it! He'd be foolish not to buy everyone comics for Christmas! Why, Blackie would sure enjoy Newsboy Legion, and an issue of Simpsons Comics for John would certainly be appreciated, and why not a nice western comic for Ox...Marshall, hmmm, that was trickier. He well knew that girls liked comics too, but wasn't certain what book his kid sister might appreciate. Not one of those gloomy goth comic books, not Ms. Marvel, not even some manga. Hmmm, maybe Green Lantern...sure, why not? Miss Ragnell sure seemed to like that one. Perfect!
Bully practically giggled to himself in delight at his completely excellent idea. Comics for Christmas? Why, he'd be the most popular gift-giver around the Christmas tree tomorrow. And the very best part...he would be able to read them all, too! "Whee!" he declared aloud, and a couple customers glanced around in surprise at the high-pitched exclamation with no apparent source.
He thumped his hoof in impatience to get to his shopping task and whirled about, but the sight that met his little black button eyes almost instantly drove out any thoughts of excitement and pride to replace them with amazement and wonder.
He was standing in the back issue aisle. But his eyes were not caught by the multiple Spider-Men or Hulks or Force Workses but by something altogether unexpected and different. There, directly across the aisle, sitting unfiled on top of an open shortbox, exactly at eye-level to a little stuffed bull, were a trio of bagged comic books, three early-seventies Marvels tossed in a casual spread to show off each of their bright, brilliant covers. Bully blinked and stepped closer, standing on tip-hooves to look at the covers. He'd never seen this Marvel title before, never even heard of it: Marvel's Greatest Comics? Even Bully was familiar with the usual ol' Bullpen hyperbole and he internally scoffed to himself how great can they be if I've never even heard of this series before?. He picked up the comic in the middle and regarded it carefully. It had Galactus on it.
There were handwritten stickers on each of the comics with pricing and a small notation. Bully peered at the one he held and read the label:
In the next aisle over, Hanley's clerk Larry the Golden Age Guy looked up from his restocking task. It was the second time he'd heard a high-pitched excited squeak echoing through the store in the past few minutes. He hoped the store didn't have mice.
How's that for a cliffhanger, true believer? Join us on Monday for Part 6!